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When You Gotta Go You don't want to leave your business, but will you be ready if you have to?

By Jacquelyn Lynn

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're not ready to retire, nor are you considering selling your company-in fact, you see yourself running your venture for years to come. So why bother with an exit strategy? For the same reason your mother always nagged you about wearing clean underwear: You just never know what might happen. You may, for example, get an unexpected offer from someone who wants to buy all or part of the company, or you might experience unforeseen personal circumstances, such as illness or divorce, that could change your plans.

A solid exit strategy ensures that your company continues after you're gone, eases the transition, protects the business's goodwill and assets as well as the interest of investors and creditors, defines ownership of intellectual property, and keeps your tax obligation as low as possible, says Kathy Teel, president of The Compliance Company in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Perhaps the most critical part of an exit strategy is relationship planning, Teel says. More than basic succession planning, you need to be sure your company will be able to draw on the alliances you've built with investors, financiers, customers and employees if you're not there. Be sure the people you're grooming for leadership roles have made those connections.

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